A CAMPAIGN supported by the Episcopal Church in the United States has resulted in 169 arrests for human trafficking before last weekend’s Super Bowl in Atlanta, Georgia.
The arrests included 26 alleged traffickers and 34 people accused of trying to have sex with minors. The FBI said that nine juvenile sex-trafficking victims were recovered, and nine adult human-trafficking victims were identified.
Advocates for sex-trafficking victims say that sex traffickers are attracted to large sporting events. Last Sunday’s game between the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots was the pinnacle of the National Football League’s sporting year. In 2011, the Texas Attorney General, Greg Abbott, said that the Super Bowl is “commonly known as the single largest human-trafficking incident in the United States”.
Churches in the diocese of Atlanta worked with the small charity SOAP — Save our Teenagers from Prostitution — set up by a sex-trafficking survivor. They helped to supply thousands of bars of soap to hotels, wrapped in a red band giving anti-trafficking helplines, and put up posters with pictures of missing children.
Their campaign, SOAP Up Atlanta, was organised by the diocese’s domestic minor sex-trafficking commission to support targeted action by local, state, and federal agencies, including planting undercover police officers in hotel bedrooms.
A member of the commission, Catherine Renaud, told the Episcopal News Service that hotel staff reported several potential victims to police after seeing the posters. She said that it was the first time that the commission had been involved in such a large campaign.
Ms Renaud said that she had joined the campaign after hearing some of the statistics about trafficking: for example, in Georgia each month, an estimated 7000 or more men paying for sex ended up exploiting an adolescent female.
“I could not sit by and do nothing. And I think the more other people hear about it, they won’t be able to either. Once you hear it, you can’t forget it,” she said.
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